Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ya Gotta Have Friends

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. ~Proverbs 27:17
Part of my morning reading guided me here today...a gentle reminder that that post, the one I've been wanting to write since last Monday after dropping my friends off at the airport, needs to emerge from the depths of my end-of-summer-bogged-down mind.

Two weekends ago, my heart and home were filled with the excitement and joy of a reunion, eight years in the making.  My dear friends Kylie and Jill simultaneously made their way to Texas from opposite sides of Pennsylvania.  Their arrival times were pretty much in sync, so after a little maneuvering between two different terminals, we were all together--the first time since June, 2005.

The three of us became friends in college; fated together by the powers that be in the College of Education at Penn State {We Are!}.  Our bond strengthened over classes and group projects {teaching phonics and counting bats at Old Main}, Monkey Boys and karaoke at the Saloon {the birthplace of the F.T.O.A.}, photo hunt and Stoli Razz & Sprites at the G-Man, Thursdays at Players {after Friends, of course}, red snapper and wine at Zola, teaching kindergarten together in the Middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania, surviving 'The Head' during student teaching, and our post-college trip to the panhandle of Florida and Gulf Shores, AL.

Our friendship developed in  bars, clubs, cars, and classrooms.  The ironic combination of those places might make someone alert the authorities...but truth be told, we never cross-mingled the 'fun' of college with the 'fun' of teaching {or driving.  It was Penn State.  We walked.  Or Loop-ed it.}.  The juxtaposition of our 'almost grownup' adult selves with our 'girls just wanna have fun' college selves made for an interesting balance; and personally speaking, there were probably several times when I could have made wiser choices {and several times I did make wiser choices...thanks to the sage advice of my dear friends}.

But before we knew it, college was over.  Graduation was upon us; late nights dancing and drinking and photo-hunting and laughing behind us.  Real world was *just about* to settle in.

But first, we needed a trip.

In a move that I don't know I'll ever replicate as a mom, my parents gave me the thumbs up to hop on a plane with Jill and meet up with Kylie for two weeks of randomness, uncertain destinations, zero hotel reservations, and a rental car {that we had to upgrade for a convertible to accommodate our luggage.  plus, it's Florida.  convertibles and fresh-outta-college girls go hand in hand.}.  In the days before smart phones and GPS, we were armed with a map and the understanding that we needed to reach Gulf Shores, Alabama at some point, so we could enjoy some time with Kylie's family in their vacation home {and, you know, catch our flight back home}.

The details of our trip are memories we'll always have; kept in the smiley part of our hearts, the place where we go when we need a good laugh or a happy feeling on a down day.  I'm sure I can speak for my girls when I say we're probably also keeping some of those memories in the grateful place in our heart--not only for the shared experiences, but for those experiences happening in the 'pre-social media' days.  *wink, wink*

Thanks to younger siblings, a younger boyfriend, and a dual major; we were able to continue the experience of college life, post graduation.  Weekdays were packed with student teaching and lesson plans and curriculum and meetings; but come Friday evening, you'd find us sitting in traffic on 322 as we crawled alongside the Susquehanna River, destination: State College.  It was a fun way to prolong our departure from the college world while still dabbling in the world of being a 'grown up'.

When things became 'official' between Randy and I on December 31, 2003, Jill was armed and ready with her camera to capture the memories, and for that, I'm so grateful.  Jill and Kylie being a part of the group of loved ones who would stand in support of the life Randy and I were going to build was an obvious choice.  After all, they had been there from day one {and even helped to give definition to Randy and my relationship}; they had shared laughs and beers and time together.  They knew me...but more importantly, they knew 'us'.  We were grateful we had peeps like them in our corner {still are}.

The day after our wedding, the girls and I shared a giant hug goodbye.  Kylie was heading back across PA while Jill went just up the road.  Me?  I was getting ready to say goodbye to it all.  Colorado-bound with my new husband, I was grateful for emails and texts and phone calls so we could all stay connected.

Life progressed, as it tends to do.  Careers, marriages, children, family illnesses and loss...infiltrated our lives as we drifted further and further from our care-free college days.  'Catching up' became less and less frequent, and physically being together--a near impossibility.  Jill trekked to Colorado a couple times, while Randy and I made a *few* trips back east.  While we all share the best of intentions, our communication became 'highlight reels'--breaking news stories that gave us the opportunity to give and receive the appropriate support needed to move forward.  We relied on the glories of Facebook to keep tabs on each other {ahem, I obviously taking on the role of 'the over-poster'}.  From an outsider's perspective, one might think our friendship had stalled in the afterglow of a collegiate world.

Thank goodness we don't listen to outsiders.

A few months ago, a random dream, some text messages, and a few Facebook communications gave us the kick in the pants we needed to plan a reunion.  Texas-bound friends sent me into a flurry of activity...trying to transform my house from a 'loose interpretation of clean' into a relaxing spot for our long weekend reunion.  As I vacuumed and dusted and Cloroxed, I thought.  I reminisced.  I wondered.  I even worried.

As the time approached for their arrival, Randy had asked me if I was worried about their visit.

"Worried how?", I had asked.

He went on to explain that it had been so long since we'd all been together, heck, even really talked with one another on the phone {ah, living in a world with the mixed blessings of social media and smartphones}.  It had been eight years.  We were whole new people...we'd even made whole new people in that time.  Would our interactions be based solely upon memories of good times passed, or would we have that connection we'd shared over $2 teas and Brittany Spear's songs {don't judge...at one point, she did have it}.

I know he didn't mean anything negative by his musings, and I don't blame him for being 'a guy'.  Men are not able to fully comprehend the capacity of the friendships among women; the how and why we need their presence in our lives.  They don't always recognize the importance of these connections, and how, even if it has been years, the bonds of a true friendship can run deeper than any ocean {or gulf...or Happy Valley}.

But apparently, his musings infiltrated enough to give me fleeting moments of wonderment.  Would the ways in which we've changed and 'grown up' prevent us from truly connecting the way in which we had so many years ago?  Have we lost 'that thing' that made our trifecta work so well?  Would the girls see changes in me that they didn't like?

I'm not blaming Randy for the thoughts I had while cleaning.  We'll say it was the fumes from the bathroom cleaner that allowed his masculine-mind-driven seedlings to implant into my mind for even more than a moment's time.  Even though I know 'my girls' have been and always will be 'my girls', I allowed for my own insecurities to warp my thinking and leave me wondering.  I never questioned the integrity of their character, but the incompleteness of my own.  I worried that I had changed in ways that would cause a transformation in our compatibility.  That I had done something {or not done something} that would make it seem 'less than normal' as we interacted with one another.  I feared that my own insecurities about my own insecurities had joined forces to make me seem less desirable as a friend, and more desirable as a train wreck from which you simply can't look away.

And then I arrived at the airport.

Kylie was my first pick up, as her plane arrived just before Jill's.  And through the magic of our friendship, we wound up laughing hysterically as Kylie waved and smiled and walked toward a car that wasn't mine, occupied by a woman that wasn't me, while I drove backwards in a one-way zone in order to pick up my lost and wandering friend who shared in the mixed blessing of 'random common senselessness'.  {I like to call it 'super excited coupled with heat stroke from a Houston summer'}.  Laughter and gigantic smiles were soon paired with a great big hug in the middle of that one-way passenger pick up lane.  The harried atmosphere of an airport broke our physical embrace, and did so again as we arrived at the curb to pick up Jill at her terminal.  The physical hug had ended abruptly, but the connection, the 'it' that we shared in college as we laughed over cocktails and pool tables and Panera bagels and cream cheese, grabbed hold of my heart and didn't let go.

We spent our time laughing and reminiscing, but also sharing the reader's digest of our current lives.  The flow of conversation was natural, ebbing and flowing between the serious and the silly.  We delved deep with some things; skimmed the surface with others.  But even when the words on the subject were sparse, our deep-seeded knowledge of each other's personalities allowed us to listen between the lines.

We are no longer juxtaposed between 'almost adult' and college kids.  We're smack dab in the middle of adulthood.  The messiness, the demands, the responsibilities and the craziness of it all.  But we still haven't lost our sense of 'girls {who} just wanna have fun'.  We just do so now with a more reasonable bed time and healthier diets {discounting the meals we ate that weekend, of course}.  And while we all lead the majority of our lives in the blissful ignorance of the intimate goings on of each other's; for that weekend, we were able to corral our 'fun' sides, create new memories, re-connect, and spend time mentally reminding ourselves of what it was that drew us together in the first place.  In some ways, not a thing changed; but the changes we have made only seem to have drawn us closer.

That weekend proved that eight years has nothing on a true and beautiful friendship.  Whether that friendship formed on a grade school playground, a high school team, or a college bar; friendships like our are timeless.  So thank you, girls.  Thank you for refreshing my soul, sharpening my eyesight to the things that are most important, and loving me just as I am and always have been.  {Your 'lost one'}.
The beauty of friends--true, lifelong friends--is that while 
you grow separately, you never grow apart.

1 comment :

  1. So true! I just balled my eyes out. A friend once told me "True friendship like we have is like a circle-it has no end." ○ love you both, Kylie